James Watt Bin Atie - Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI)
Police in Indonesia have jailed indigenous farmers for allegedly stealing oil palm fruit from a plantation company that is itself accused of stealing their land. Police in East Kotawaringin district, in the Bornean province of Central Kalimantan, arrested Dilik Bin Asap and Hermanus Bin Bison from Penyang village on Feb. 17, 2020. They were accused of harvesting palm fruit on land claimed by the villagers but cultivated illegally by PT Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada (HMBP), an affiliate of the BEST Group. On February 26, 2020, three activists of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), Mr. Untung, prominent land rights activist James Watt, and Dedi Sasanto, were summoned by police in relation to the alleged illegal fruit theft. Another 11 residents have been arrested on 27 February 2020 and Mr. Untung was taken to the police station for interrogation. On March 7, police arrested James Watt in Jakarta, where he had gone to report the earlier arrests to the national human rights commission, known as Komnas HAM, and the witness protection program, or LPSK. He was charged with orchestrating the alleged theft by Dilik and Hermanus. Dedi Sasanto was also questioned about the theft on the same day. Rights group allege the incidents are closely related to the struggle of the Penyang Village community to reclaim their land controlled by the palm oil company PT. HMBP, which has been going on since 2006. BHRRC reached out to HMBP but did not receive a response.